Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Wacky old Canada again

A human rights board is hearing the case of a Halifax man who claims he's being discriminated against on religious and ethnic grounds because his condo board told him to remove his satellite dish. The hearing into Ahmed Assal's case began Tuesday in Halifax.

Assal, a condo owner in Clayton Park, is a Muslim originally from Egypt. Through his satellite dish, he gets 18 channels of religious and cultural programming in Arabic. Without it, he says his children could not get the programs essential to their education. "I have a family, I have children, and the serious matter is that it is for culture, religion, language," he told reporters after the hearing.

Assal acknowledges he knew about the condominium board's bylaw that prohibits satellite dishes before he bought the condo. But he says other rules regarding pets and tree planting are not enforced. So if the board makes exceptions for other condo owners, Assal argued, why shouldn't it do the same for him?

The managers says they do not give preferential treatment. The ban is in place because satellite dishes spoil the look of the buildings and can cause structural damage, they say. Manager Don Buck said it is possible to make an exception to a bylaw if the request is made in writing, but he said Assal never did this.

Assal says he was told over the phone the board might allow the dish as long as it wasn't installed on a roof or a fence. He decided to put it up on a tree in a common area.

The human rights hearing is scheduled to continue for another two days. Once the testimony is complete, board chair Royden Trainor will decide if Assal was discriminated against and what penalties, if any, should be levied against Halifax Condominium Corporation No. 4.


Picture of gun incorrect in Britain

Luxury shoemaker Jeffery-West Shoes has had an advertising campaign banned by watchdogs for irresponsibly glamorising the use of guns. The firm, which has stores in locations including Piccadilly and the City of London, ran an ad in fashion magazine Ology depicting a woman dressed in a fur coat at the wheel of a car with a gun and a pair of men's boots on the seat next to her. The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint that the use of the gun was offensive and also questioned whether the ad glamorised the use of guns.

Jeffery-West said the ad was an old promotional shot it had used in-store to promote its footwear, but added that it had no plans to use the ad again and apologised for any offence caused. Gazette Media Company, owner of Ology magazine, said that the image supplied was heavily Americanised with the car and the woman implying a gangster's moll and was clearly fictional and slightly surreal. It also believed the image was appropriate for the product and said the image had been used before and was on Jeffrey-West's website.

The ASA said that the image went beyond being surreal and implied a fashionable lifestyle. Furthermore, the watchdog said that the gun was not related to the product and appeared solely as a glamorous fashion accessory and promoted a lifestyle that condoned violence



And the First Amendment gives them the right to practice their religion

Thousands of religious refugees mass in the streets of Sacramento to shout "Shame!" Their targets, with their own history of persecution still fresh and raw, retort: "Go back to Russia!" How did it come to this? In the last few months, the growing conflict between Sacramento's Slavic Christians and its politically savvy gay community has erupted on campuses, at school board hearings, and on the grounds of the Capitol. Russian-speaking hecklers lined the march of this year's gay pride parade downtown. At least 15 Slavic students were suspended in April for wearing shirts proclaiming, "Homosexuality is sin." This spring, Slavic Christians packed board meetings in three local school districts to make their position clear: Being gay is not OK.

Gays are starting to respond in kind. A dozen staged a counterprotest in July, demonstrating outside the region's largest evangelical Slavic church during Sunday morning services. Gays say the Slavic protesters have hit them with signs, spit on them and displayed a menacing lack of civility. Gay leaders have met with local police and press to say they're worried about violence, and now they're forming a "Q Crew" -- a new political activism group -- to tell the public their fears. "They're more and more brazen with their signs and their numbers," said Tina Reynolds, a lesbian activist and owner of a gallery in downtown Sacramento. "It's much more in our face, and I'm beginning to feel like something's going to happen."

Beyond the surface animosity, this is a collision of two powerful forces: a deeply held religious conviction and the determined march of homosexuals toward equal rights. The region's large Russian-speaking Christian community, usually shy of publicity, is stepping into the public eye, saying they have to save California from a dangerous moral decline. Gay leaders worry that these protests will erode their community's political progress and spoil the security they have come to feel in Sacramento.

Free speech or hate speech?

The evangelical Slavs, refugees who fled religious persecution in the former Soviet Union, are finally hitting their stride in the land of the free. They came for the freedom to worship. Now they say they're exercising the freedom of speech to spread a fundamental belief: Homosexuality is a sin and a choice. "We have tasted the power of democracy -- now we go and protest," said George Neverov, a Baptist who emigrated from Uzbekistan in 1991 and lives in Carmichael. The father of three young daughters, he is a vocal opponent of any endorsement of homosexuality in the public schools. "Am I against tolerance?" said Neverov, 33. "God forbid, no. But my whole belief system is based on the Bible. I say homosexuality is a sin. Why are you offended by that?"

Gay activists contend that this sentiment, when aggressively expressed in public protests, is nothing less than hate speech. The demonstrations seem suffused with a frightening rage, they say. "At their protests, it's all about God, burning in hell and sodomy," said Darrick Lawson, president of Sacramento's Stonewall Democratic Club, a gay political organization. "They want to use their rights and freedoms to suppress another community. It goes against the reasons they moved here. The Bible never taught this kind of hatred."

Lawson, himself the son of an evangelical pastor, spent nearly three years in therapy trying to overcome his own homosexuality before accepting it. "We have no problem with them saying this in their churches," Lawson said. "Do I want to ban them from Gay Pride? No. I don't. In no way do I want to infringe upon the right they came here for. But they need to consider our safety and play by the rules."

These refugees say they understand rules. They fled from an officially atheistic society where the rules discriminated against the religious. People of faith sometimes were imprisoned, their children wrenched from them, their careers stalled. Some harbor memories of a grandfather executed, a grandmother who died in jail. Community leaders estimate 100,000 Russian-speaking residents live in the Sacramento region, about a third of them evangelical Christians. Mostly Ukrainian Baptists or Pentecostals, many came here in recent decades believing the United States was a Christian nation -- a place where their literal interpretation of the Bible would be the rule. Instead, they landed in freewheeling California and encountered a culture of widespread divorce, premarital sex, and -- almost unheard of in their home countries -- open homosexuality.

Political clout downplayed

Even more offensive to them is the increasingly strong push by gay leaders to bring acceptance of homosexuality into public life and public schools. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the Legislature's first openly lesbian member, has spent her political career fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She has little patience for the anti-gay feelings of these immigrants. "This kind of aggressive homophobia is nothing new," said the senator, a Democrat from Santa Monica. "This is just one in a long line of communities who have become convinced that they have a moral obligation to discriminate."

One of Kuehl's bills, Senate Bill 1437, has aroused special consternation among the Slavic Christians. As drafted, the bill would require the public school curriculum to note the contributions of gays and lesbians to society. Conservative Christian groups across the state -- as well as several mainstream newspapers and the governor -- have criticized the bill. But Sacramento's Slavs are its most visible opponents. On June 12, whole families showed up at the Capitol to demonstrate against SB 1437 and other pro-gay bills. One little girl held up a sign that said "Homosexuals Do Not Touch My Kids." A young boy waved a hand-painted message: "I'm NOT learning about gay people."

Kuehl downplays the Slavs' political clout, saying they are puppets of the right who are not taken seriously by the Legislature. But one of her staunchest opponents, conservative lobbyist Randy Thomasson, gives them a lot more credit. "When it comes to parental rights and family values, Russia may just save California," said Thomasson, president of the Sacramento-based Campaign for Children and Families. Thomasson notes that the Slavs are fast becoming citizens, registering to vote and learning how to make themselves heard. He credits them for playing a major role in gaining Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's pledge to veto SB 1437. ...

In an interview, Khakimov explained what their faith means to this community. "Religion is our life, it's not just words," he said through a translator. He said he believes the Bible is absolutely, literally true. "Our people suffered for their Bible teaching -- they were put in jail just for following the Bible," the pastor said.

As for gays, he cites from memory several Bible verses he says declare homosexuality to be a sin, but adds: "First of all, we don't hate them. We pray for them. They are also people. They are sinners and they need help. This is like any other sin." His community has rallied against gay issues, he said, because gay advocates are making political inroads. If Christians don't defend their beliefs, he said, God will rain down wrath as he did on Sodom.....

More here

No comments: